Celebrating 300 years

Canterbury Cathedral hosted a Tercentenary Thanksgiving service  in recognition of its long-standing relationship with Freemasonry

More than 1,500 masons and their families came from across the Provinces of East Kent, West Kent, Surrey and Sussex to attend a service in celebration of 300 years of the United Grand Lodge of England.

The event was held on 18 February in the presence of the Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Kent and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, and was led by the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Robert Willis.

During his sermon, Dr Willis thanked the Duke of Kent for his long-standing support of the cathedral. He recalled how the Royal Family helped when the cathedral was damaged by bombing during World War II. He also paid tribute to the generous support of the masonic community, whose relationship with the cathedral dates back more than 100 years.

Canterbury Cathedral is currently undergoing the largest restoration project in its history. The interior and exterior are covered in scaffolding to allow the ancient building to be restored to as close to its original condition as possible. A donation of £300,000 from the Freemasons of Kent, Surrey and Sussex has funded repairs to the North West Transept, including new tower pinnacles and a spiral stone staircase.

East Kent Provincial Grand Master Geoffrey Dearing said: ‘The existence of Freemasonry for over 300 years bears witness to the fact that the idea of men from all walks of life coming together to make society a better place is one that has stood the test of time and inspired successive generations.’

Published in UGLE

Always in good form

With Visiting Volunteers helping Freemasons and families in need complete the crucial paperwork required to access grants, Steven Short discovers that masonic support comes in many guises

Away to meet Freemason Robert James at his home in Bridgend, South Wales, to do some paperwork. Arwyn is a Visiting Volunteer, a recently introduced role with a remit to help those seeking assistance from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to fill in the application forms correctly.

‘The forms aren’t complicated once you get to know them,’ says Arwyn, who is a member of Dewi Sant Lodge, No. 9067. ‘But it’s a bit like when you get a tax return: you look at the paperwork and you think, “Oh crikey, I’ll have a look a bit later,” then a couple of weeks pass, you realise you haven’t done it, so you have a go and send the form off… then you realise you haven’t filled in all the right sections.’

Every year the MCF supports hundreds of members of the masonic community. The support can come in many different forms, from help with essential living costs to grants following redundancy or bereavement. Grants can also be allocated for education or training for children and young people, for medical treatment or counselling, or even for minor home improvements.

The first step for anyone applying for financial assistance from the MCF is to fill out the relevant paperwork – something that, historically, wasn’t entirely straightforward.

In the past, whenever a Freemason or their dependant wished to apply for a grant, it was a requirement that they be visited by someone who would help them complete the relevant paperwork. This person would also need to ensure that all necessary supporting evidence was in place, that Ts were crossed and Is were dotted. 

This task often fell to the local lodge almoner and it would come on top of existing pastoral care responsibilities – which might include attending funerals in a lodge’s name, visiting widows and brethren who no longer attended their lodge, and making hospital visits. Furthermore, the almoners would have no formal training or receive any support in this additional administrative work.

This increased workload combined with a lack of specialist knowledge meant the application forms submitted could sometimes contain errors. As a result, the system was revised in 2014 and a programme of Visiting Volunteers trialled across seven Provinces.

The role of the Visiting Volunteer is, as the name suggests, to visit the Freemasons and their families who apply for grants, helping them to correctly complete application forms, and to collect and collate all the information necessary for a request to be considered. The volunteers also have to prepare an objective, detailed report to support the application.

Unlike the overworked almoners – who are now able to dedicate their time to their community-focused duties – Visiting Volunteers are thoroughly trained in the application process.

George Royle, South Wales Provincial Grand Almoner, helped to develop this new model and recruited the Visiting Volunteers who now help with applications in his Province. ‘We have an initial two-day residential training programme,’ he says, ‘which is followed by regular refresher training.’

‘The scheme means that those in need have their applications dealt with more efficiently… It’s a great step forward’ George Royle

IN THE KNOW

The intensive training means that the Visiting Volunteers (also known as Petition Application Officers in the Province of South Wales) are up to speed on how forms need to be completed and aware of all the documentation that is required to support an application.

‘We learnt about things such as state benefits,’ says Arwyn, ‘so that we can highlight to applicants what benefits they might be entitled to. We also looked at confidentiality, data protection and safeguarding issues.’ 

Once a form has been completed and all the documentation collated, the Visiting Volunteer sends the application straight to London. Previously almoners submitted everything to their Provincial Grand Almoner. ‘I would check everything,’ says George, ‘and if something was missing, I would have to go back to the almoners, who would have to go back to the applicants. I would then countersign an application and send it off. Now all I get is an email copy for reference, and much less paperwork in the office.’

POSITIVE EXPERIENCES

To date, Arwyn has worked with around 18 brethren and describes the experience of helping others as hugely satisfying. Someone he has assisted recently is Robert James, who applied for a grant for medical assistance with a heart condition. ‘I was on the NHS waiting list for an operation,’ says Robert. ‘The list just seemed to be getting longer. Some fellow Freemasons said I might be eligible for help from the MCF to get seen privately.’

As with every request he is asked to oversee, Arwyn’s involvement with Robert began with a phone call. ‘Calling someone and introducing yourself is a great way to start, as you can put applicants at ease and they have the name and number of a real person who can help them.’ The initial call also gives the Visiting Volunteer the opportunity to tell the applicant what to expect from a visit and what documentation they will need to gather ahead of it.

‘Within a couple of days of initially applying, I had spoken to Arwyn on the phone and arranged a time for him to come around. It was really quick and easy,’ says Robert.

George agrees that the new system has streamlined the application process considerably. ‘The scheme means that those in need have their applications dealt with more speedily and efficiently. I’ve known decisions about grants being made in a fortnight,’ he says. ‘It’s a great step forward.’

‘The first time Arwyn visited we discussed my situation in a bit more detail and looked at what I might be eligible for,’ says Robert.

The pair also discussed confidentiality issues – Visiting Volunteers are bound by the codes and policies of the MCF as well as by data protection laws. ‘People are sharing personal and sensitive information,’ says Arwyn, ‘they need to feel you can be trusted.’

It is also felt that divulging delicate information to a properly trained, objective third party is easier than sharing it with a local almoner, who the applicant may know well and see regularly at lodge.

A visit from a volunteer can last anything from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on what needs to be done, and the number of visits required varies. The second time Arwyn visited Robert at home, they completed the application form together and checked that all supporting documentation was in order.

‘The experience was marvellous,’ says Robert. ‘Within three weeks of Arwyn sending off the forms I was in having my operation. My heart is fantastic now. I feel like a new man.’

What does it take to be a Visiting Volunteer?

To recruit the much-needed Visiting Volunteers in South Wales, Provincial Grand Almoner George Royle placed an advert on the Freemasons’ website. ‘I interviewed 21 people,’ he says, ‘and selected 12.’ George describes his team as ‘extremely dedicated officers who are all willing to go the extra mile’.

Visiting Volunteer Arwyn Reynolds says he applied because the role requires many of the skills he honed in his professional life.
‘I had a keen sense of confidentiality because of my work in HR and as a manager,’ he says, ‘and I know the importance of communication skills and being able to engage with people.’

Other desirable attributes for being a Visiting Volunteer are an ability to remain objective and a good level of literacy, numeracy and IT skills. For Arwyn, the role also appealed because it came at a time when he was winding down his professional life but wanted to continue to use his time in a positive, useful way.

Find out more: For support, contact the Masonic Charitable Foundation in confidence on 0800 035 60 90 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Features

Just Getting Started

Freemason Jeffrey Long MBE has chosen  to spend his senior years embarking on  epic walks for good causes. Matthew  Bowen finds out why he’s not planning  on hanging up his boots any time soon

Jeffrey Long’s flat in Bingley, West Yorkshire, is up a steep set of stairs. It’s the kind of place you might advise older relatives to move away from, but at 85, he’s right at home. Not looking a day over 70, Jeffrey has a firm handshake. ‘Excuse the mess,’ he says. ‘I moved into the place in 2009, but am only just finding the time to sort my things out.’

Beyond boxes of crockery and old trinkets, a scrapbook lies open, filled with press clippings and photos. Remarkably, most show Jeffrey as an older man. ‘I just didn’t have time to do all the things I wanted to do when I was working,’ he says, ‘and I’ve never believed in giving up.’

ACTIVE SERVICE

At 19, Jeffrey joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps to start his National Service. Duty took him to the Far East, dropping military supplies to British troops. He enjoyed serving – ‘Being fit and flying appealed to me’ – and it prepared him for a career with the Parachute Regiment, which he joined in 1952.

At the peak of his fitness, Jeffrey was battalion cross-country champion. ‘Hills were my speciality,’ he says, ‘and I’d always train in my army boots.’ After two years of service, however, he suffered a life-changing incident – his parachute misfired at 500 feet and, with no reserve chute, Jeffrey fell to the ground.

Unbelievably, Jeffrey didn’t break a single bone, but he did suffer excruciating back pain from then onwards. He stayed in service for a further three years, doing everything he could to get back to fitness. When doctors suggested a steel corset to help his back, he knew the end of his active military service was approaching.

Jeffrey joined a textile company after being discharged and spent much of his working life there, running a sales team. He took a four-year break in 1984 to study management, computing and accountancy, then worked as a project manager for the local council, before joining the British Transport Police.

Alongside his day jobs, he promoted Anglo-Swiss relations as the president of the Federation of Swiss Societies. Eventually, however, Jeffrey became so busy with charities that he didn’t have time to work.

Jeffrey had switched his focus to fundraising in the early 2000s following reports of soldiers being sent into the Iraq war without proper support. ‘I got so uptight with the government that I just had to do something,’ he says. Utilising his Swiss connections, he initiated and secured funding for a charity bike ride from London to Lausanne, Switzerland, in support of the Royal British Legion (RBL).

Despite being aged 75 and not a cyclist, Jeffrey intended to join the ride himself until a training injury scuppered his plans. Never one to admit defeat, he decided to walk the route instead, despite ‘not being much of a walker’. The 650-mile route took Jeffrey 39 days, solo and unsupported, through torrential rain and baking sun. He even walked the English Channel by marching back and forth on the ferry.

Modestly acknowledging the achievement, Jeffrey, who started the walk with a 35kg pack on his back, says: ‘It was quite a big thing to take on, but I knew a 75-year-old doing something like this would generate publicity, and that would lead to more cash for the Legion.’ The combined fundraising total of the walk and ride came to £142,000.

CLOCKING UP THE MILES

Buoyed up by the success of the walk, Jeffrey carried on. In 2009, he joined five firemen on a speed march to York. In the years following, he has undertaken a 90-mile route that included climbing three Yorkshire peaks, walked 127 miles between Liverpool and Leeds, and completed the length of Hadrian’s Wall – 84 miles – in his 84th year. ‘I even delayed a hernia operation to take part in a 12-kilometre [7.5-mile] assault course,’ he adds.

As well as the walks, Jeffrey organised 18 years’ worth of fundraising dinners while working with the St James’s Branch of the RBL, and received an MBE in 2010 for his efforts.

Born and raised in Bradford, Jeffrey’s a proud Yorkshireman who takes great delight in the stunning local landscape. Dressed in full military gear, he walks up the slope to Ilkley Moor’s Cow and Calf Rocks at a brisk pace, explaining that he doesn’t train because he doesn’t ‘have the time’.

So, what do Jeffrey’s friends think of his exploits? ‘People tell me I’ve done enough, that I don’t have to prove anything anymore,’ he says, ‘but it’s not about proving anything, it’s just that somebody has to do something.’

Jeffrey’s friend, 87-year-old Maurice Johnson, thinks he’s trying to wear his legs out completely. While expressing mild concern for his friend’s well-being, Maurice also acknowledges: ‘I could never achieve what he’s done. He’s a wonderful warrior for charity and always finds time to take on extra, when others would say they were too busy, or too old.’ Maurice is Treasurer of Helvetica Lodge, No. 4894, and the man who recommended Jeffrey to Freemasonry.

Jeffrey became a member of Helvetica Lodge 10 years ago and says it was an easy decision. ‘I’ve always believed in what the Freemasons believe about brotherly love, kindness and doing the right thing,’ he says. ‘I’ve been supporting others my whole life.’ In addition to raising more than £175,000 for charity, Jeffrey has spent time tutoring ex-offenders and volunteering at Bradford Day Shelter.

A few hours spent with Jeffrey is enough to convince you that he will never stop pushing himself physically, and mentally, to help others. He’ll do all he can to make a difference. Gazing over the spectacular views of Ilkley and beyond, he cheerfully remarks: ‘It won’t be long before I’m planning a 100-mile walk for my 100th birthday.’

Support Jeffrey’s ‘85 Miles for 85 Years’ fundraising walk at www.mydonate.bt.com/events/jeffreylongmbe

Published in Features

Peak Time Viewing

With a new documentary series revealing the workings of the Craft, Edwin Smith talks to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes about why this is the perfect opportunity for Freemasonry

For certain members of the general public a misconception persists that Freemasonry is a mysterious organisation shrouded in secrecy. A Sky 1 five-part television documentary series that debuted on 17 April is hoping to finally put these rumours to bed.

Coinciding with the celebration of the Craft’s 300-year anniversary, the timing of Inside The Freemasons could not have been better. ‘We’ve targeted the Tercentenary as a catalyst to being as open as we possibly can,’ says Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, adding that the decision to let the cameras in does not signify a major shift in philosophy. ‘I actually don’t think our openness is anything new. What is new is the way we’re going about it.’

The series meets members of the Craft at every level, from the Pro Grand Master to James Wootton, a Bedfordshire farmer preparing to take the First Degree under the watchful eye of his father in the first of the five episodes. The second and third episodes follow the fortunes of an Entered Apprentice and a Fellow Craft Freemason undertaking the Second and Third Degrees. After an introduction to Freemasonry in the first episode, each programme takes a theme, exploring masonic charity, brotherhood, myths and the future of the Craft.

BEHIND THE SCENES

It took a year of discussion before the project got off the ground, with the episodes then taking a further year in the making, explains Emma Read, executive producer and managing director of Emporium Productions, the company behind the documentary series.

‘These things always take a long time because everyone’s got to be comfortable [with the process]. But once we started, everyone was 100 per cent committed,’ says Read, who was also responsible for 2013’s Harrow: A Very British School documentary series and has made over 1,000 hours of factual television for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Discovery.

Read believes that UGLE felt comfortable working with Emporium and Sky because they specialise in getting access to institutions and individuals who have a reputation to protect, but about whom there are misconceptions.

‘The way that we make programmes with people is to explain that we are not here to express our opinion – this is not investigative, this is not current affairs, this is a proper documentary where we show people and places as they are,’ explains Read. ‘We film people going about their various activities and they then tell the story themselves. It could also have been called “The Freemasons in their Own Words”. It’s that kind of approach.’

With two small teams carrying out the filming, recording for hundreds of days in total, Lowndes was impressed with the discreet way in which the project was managed. ‘They’ve been very unobtrusive and therefore got the best out of people,’ he says.

‘The most effective way to make observational documentary is not with a hoard of people,’ adds Read. ‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. Why would somebody allow you to carry on filming if they didn’t like you? I wouldn’t. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work.’

‘In observational documentary, or in fact in any television, the relationship with the people you’re filming with is everything. You have to have trust on both sides or it doesn’t work’ Emma Read

A DEGREE OF SURPRISE

Despite the levels of trust, certain elements of Freemasonry had to remain off camera. Some of the Second Degree is filmed, but almost nothing of the First or the Third appears on screen. ‘Naturally we would have liked to film elements of both the First and Third Degrees,’ says Read, ‘but that was where the line was drawn. As a mason, you only do those once and each is supposed to be this amazing moment – so if you know what’s coming, it’ll spoil it.’

Read did discover a great deal about Freemasonry, however, and was struck by the scale of the charitable work that is done – ‘they hide their light under a bushel, I think’ – as well as the powerful bond of brotherhood that exists throughout the Craft.

In particular, there were two men whose stories resonated with Read. The first, Peter Younger, draws on the support of his fellow Widows Sons masonic bikers after unexpectedly losing his wife, and the mother of his seven-year-old daughter, after she suffered a heart attack. The second, Gulf War veteran Dave Stubbs, recounts the way that he used to sit up at night and feel as though he had ‘been thrown away’ after leaving the army. Later, says Read, ‘we see him being elected and installed as Worshipful Master of his lodge, which is a tearful moment’.

Read expects the series to draw a varied range of responses from the public. ‘My feeling is that some people will have this ridiculous, conspiratorial approach and say, “You’re not showing X, Y and Z.” There will be other people who already love Freemasonry and hopefully there will be some people who go, “Oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know that. It’s completely opened my eyes to it.”’

Although Lowndes expects some concerns from within the brotherhood, he’s anticipating a positive response overall. ‘I’m sure there will be criticism from some of our brethren that we should never have got involved with the documentary. There will no doubt be things in it that some people think we should not have done. However, the general impression I have is that it will be well received – I think we’ll get a lot of support both internally and externally.’

Marking the Tercentenary of Freemasonry naturally raises the question of what the next 300 years will hold. ‘I think we have a very exciting future ahead,’ says Lowndes. ‘We now have more young people coming in and I think we’re giving them better chances to find their feet in Freemasonry than ever before. Within that age group, I can’t remember the Craft being in better shape.’

Published in UGLE

Crossing Boundaries

Wicketz is giving young people in deprived areas access to cricket, with the aim of instilling values of teamwork and responsibility. Peter Watts discovers why it was an off-the-bat decision for the Masonic Charitable Foundation to get involved

Enjoyed the world over, cricket may be one of England’s most famous exports but it does require a little organisation. Participants need pads, bats and balls as well as a large playing area – not forgetting the time to spend the best part of a day standing in a field. These are obstacles that children in some communities are unable to overcome without support, which is why the Lord’s Taverners charity created the Wicketz programme.

Since 2012, Wicketz has given more than 2,200 youngsters living in areas of high social, economic and educational deprivation access to a cricket club. But at Wicketz, it isn’t just about teaching young people how to execute the perfect reverse sweep or deliver a googly. Rather, the focus is on improving social cohesion and teaching valuable life skills to children aged eight to 15 who may otherwise be left by the wayside.

It was this emphasis on life skills that prompted the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to give a £50,000 grant to Wicketz to fund a two-year expansion project. ‘It’s a well thought through programme that will have impact where it is most needed and that’s music to our ears,’ says Les Hutchinson, MCF Chief Operating Officer and a keen cricket fan.

Wicketz targets areas and communities that often don’t have access to playing fields or sporting facilities. ‘As masons we want to enable people to actively participate in society, to become part of something and introduce that idea of a supportive culture,’ says Les, adding that the element of competitiveness in cricket is also important. ‘It’s character building and provides people with a sense of purpose. We’ll be using cricket as the catalyst to improve the lives of disadvantaged people.’

Wicketz began as a pilot scheme in West Ham in East London in 2012. The area was carefully selected due to its high level of social deprivation and lack of existing cricketing provision. ‘The overarching aim of our project is to set up a community club environment that will eventually become self-sustaining,’ explains Henry Hazlewood, cricket programme manager at Lord’s Taverners.

‘We fund everything initially – the coaching and the development – so the programme comes at no cost to the participants. Over time we engage volunteers and parents and embed them into the scheme. The club in West Ham is now integrated into the Essex league, and has a fee-paying structure and parent-volunteers. We have also upskilled volunteers so they can become coaches.’

The scheme has since expanded to Luton and is now branching into Bristol, Leicester and Birmingham. In Bristol, the MCF grant will fund three clubs and a local development officer. It will pay for coaching, playing facilities and equipment to ensure that weekly sessions can take place.

An independent charity that was founded in the Tavern pub at Lord’s cricket ground in London in 1950, Lord’s Taverners works closely with cricket authorities to improve the prospects of disadvantaged and disabled youngsters. The local development officer for Wicketz is therefore able to sit on regional county cricket boards to ensure local needs are met. ‘That allows us to fully embed with what is happening locally and get a real feel for the landscape,’ says Hazlewood.

While participants will benefit from weekly coaching, the project has not been created with the intention of finding the next Ben Stokes or Haseeb Hameed. Instead, the focus is on personal development and social cohesion.

‘Cricket is very cognitive; it’s a thinking game. There’s a lot we can draw out from it that has benefits outside of sport’ Henry Hazlewood

IT'S THE TAKING PART...

‘Cricket as an outcome is absolutely secondary,’ says Mark Bond, cricket programmes executive at Lord’s Taverners. ‘It’s not about making good cricket players, although that will likely happen through regular coaching anyway. It’s an open-door policy for people who have never picked up a bat or ball, as well as those who already have an ability and interest. We are not trying to find the next batch of world-class cricketers, we are more interested in their personal development.’

Wicketz goes to local schools to introduce the sport to the children, and then encourages them to join clubs set up by Wicketz outside the school environment. ‘We’re aware it’s a big commitment as we are asking children from deprived backgrounds, often with very little parental support, to come along off their own back,’ says Hazlewood. ‘But cricket is really just the tool of engagement to get them into the project. We want to enhance the prospects of the participants and improve their self-development. We target wider outcomes and life skills and do things like working with the NHS, fire brigade and police, things that are relevant to the local community.’

In Luton, one of Wicketz’s aims has been to improve social cohesion between different ethnic communities and discuss safety awareness surrounding the railway lines that criss-cross the area. In most regions, the local police force will be invited to take part. An officer will spend the first part of the session playing cricket, and the rest of the time talking to the youngsters about relevant issues. For some of the participants, this may be their first positive engagement with the police force. ‘They will play cricket for 20 minutes and see this officer isn’t that bad,’ says Hazlewood. ‘It’s a way of bringing down barriers.’

‘We are not trying to find the next batch of world-class cricketers, we are more interested in their personal development’ Mark Bond

KEY PLAYERS

While Wicketz may weave different community strands into the sessions, cricket remains central to the story. Hazlewood and Bond both highlight the way cricket is different to other major team sports in that it requires a great deal of individual responsibility, with players part of a team but also having to face a bowler on their own.

‘We think cricket has a lot of physical benefits and also helps communication and leadership,’ says Bond. ‘What really separates it from other team sports is the large element of individual responsibility. In other team sports, people can shy away a little bit, but in cricket you are part of a team and have to communicate, but you also have to take responsibility for your own performance.’

Hazlewood takes Bond’s point further. ‘Cricket is very cognitive; it’s a thinking game. There’s a lot we can draw out from the game that has benefits outside of sport,’ he says. ‘A lot of these outcomes are very soft and informal and worked out in sessions, and then there are more overt sessions such as working directly with the police.’

The overall aim is for the clubs to become self-sustaining and integrated into local leagues. In Bristol, Lord’s Taverners will be running local festivals to engage the various Wicketz programmes in competition, but there is also a shorter-term target for selected participants, who may be invited to join a three-day residential session where they can work on their game with professional cricketers and engage in more detailed workshops.

The Wicketz programme has already directly benefited more than 2,200 children, which shows the scheme’s impressive reach. However, Bond and Hazlewood emphasise it isn’t just about numbers. As Bond explains, ‘We don’t just want to get 100 kids through the door who love cricket, we want the kids who will really benefit.’

Ultimately, the hope is to improve lives in the wider community, not just for participants. ‘We are trying to create environments that benefit everyone and have different people from different backgrounds sitting together on the same committee,’ says Hazlewood. ‘We want to break down barriers that are prevalent and have an impact not just with the kids who come to the programme.’

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2017

From the Grand Secretary

We have been fortunate in recent months with extensive coverage across many media outlets. The Sky 1 documentary series has now finished and the DVD will be available for purchase in Letchworth’s Shop. Viewing figures have been excellent, comments from our members supportive and reports indicate a significant interest in Freemasonry from non-masons and potential recruits.

Interest in our organisation has also been enhanced by the coverage given to the unveiling ceremony of the commemorative paving stones that honour those Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. The event is covered in detail in this edition of Freemasonry Today.

This has been a splendid first half of our Tercentenary year as we approach 24 June, our founding date. Our new Grand Officers for the year have been invested and many have already been involved in various duties. They will clearly become increasingly busy in the run-up to the main event at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 31 October, which promises to be an impressive and memorable occasion.

In this issue, we report on some of the remarkable events and initiatives that are helping to mark our Tercentenary around the country. In Staffordshire, 300 masons and civic dignitaries came together for the dedication of the Masonic Memorial Garden, which has been 16 years in the making. In Canterbury, a Tercentenary Thanksgiving service was held in recognition of the cathedral’s long-standing relationship with Freemasonry. And over in the Isle of Man, six stamps have been issued that are filled with masonic references and – intriguingly – hide a surprise that is only revealed under ultraviolet light.

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE

The Tercentenary is not just about celebrating our rich history, it is also an opportunity to look forward. Grand Superintendent of Works John Pagella sets out his objectives for UGLE’s property portfolio, as well as a broader agenda to help anyone involved in the management of a masonic building or centre. For John, while Freemasonry is a craft, managing a masonic property is a business. He is keen to encourage masons at Provincial level to ask themselves whether their buildings are not only fit for purpose today but will continue to be so in 10 or 20 years’ time.

In Yorkshire, we meet Jeffrey Long, an 85-year-old army veteran and unstoppable fundraiser who has walked 127 miles between Liverpool and Leeds, undertaken a 90-mile route that included climbing three Yorkshire peaks, and completed the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall in his 84th year. In Leicester, martial artist and cooking sensation Kwoklyn Wan shares his passion for teaching. For Kwoklyn, joining the Craft has been the perfect progression, as it echoes the values he acquired growing up: ‘You learn from a young age to respect your elders; you treat people how you want to be treated. And with the Freemasons I felt that immediately.’

Willie Shackell
Grand Secretary

'Remarkable events are helping to mark our Tercentenary around the country’

Published in UGLE

Origin unknown

Director of Special Projects  John Hamill considers the unique  status of time immemorial lodges and  their vital contribution to Freemasonry

As is well known, on 24 June 1717, four London lodges came together and elected a Grand Master. They agreed to revive the annual feast and to hold quarterly communications, in effect bringing the first Grand Lodge into existence. While much has been said of this now-momentous event, little has been said of the lodges that brought Grand Lodge into being.

According to James Anderson in the 1738 Constitutions of the Free-Masons, the four lodges were at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul’s Churchyard; the Crown Ale House in Parker’s Lane, near Drury Lane; the Apple Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden; and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster.

Of those lodges, the Crown Ale House ceased meeting circa 1736 but the other three still meet today. Because their dates of origin are unknown, and they predate the formation of Grand Lodge itself, they have the status of being ‘time immemorial’.

Today, the lodge at the Goose and Gridiron is now Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2. It was certainly in existence in 1691 and may well have been the lodge within the London Masons Company that Elias Ashmole attended in 1682. It became No. 1 of the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 and until 1760 was known by the name of the tavern at which it met.

In 1760, the lodge took the name of American & West Indian Lodge but in 1770 assumed its present name. When the two former lists of lodges were combined after the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, lots were drawn and Grand Master’s Lodge of the Antients Grand Lodge became No. 1 on the new United Grand Lodge register, with Lodge of Antiquity the No. 2.

From 1809 until his death in 1843, HRH The Duke of Sussex was permanent Master of Lodge of Antiquity. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his taking office, he permitted the lodge to have its officers’ jewels made in gold.

The lodge at the Apple Tree Tavern is now Lodge of Fortitude & Old Cumberland, No. 12. For reasons lost in time, the lodge accepted a constitution from Grand Lodge in 1723 and became No. 11 on the first numbered list of lodges in 1729. As a result it lost its time immemorial status and, despite attempts in the 19th century to regain that status, it wasn’t until the run-up to Grand Lodge’s 250th anniversary in 1967 that it was restored. The first Grand Master, Anthony Sayer, was a member of this lodge.

The lodge at the Rummer and Grapes in Channel Row is now Royal Somerset House & Inverness Lodge, No. 4. Named Old Horn Lodge in 1767, it united with Somerset House Lodge in 1774 and took that name. In 1828 it united with Royal Inverness Lodge, the first lodge warranted under the United Grand Lodge, and took its present name.

SYMBOLIC GESTURES

Despite the Great War, a celebration of the bicentenary of the formation of Grand Lodge was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 23 June 1917. Members of the three original lodges were processed into the hall to mark their status. At the meeting it was announced that to commemorate their actions in 1717, the officers’ collars of the three lodges would have the addition of a central garter blue stripe, and their Masters were called up to be invested with their new collars by the Grand Master. Later in the year the Duke of Connaught further honoured them by becoming the permanent Master of the three lodges.

At the celebrations for the 250th anniversary in 1967 and the 275th in 1992, the Masters of the time immemorial lodges were processed into Grand Lodge. The Master of Royal Somerset House & Inverness Lodge presented the Bible to the Grand Master; the Master of No. 12 presented the square and compasses; and the Master of No. 2 presented the Wren maul.

Today, to mark the part played in 1717, the present Grand Master will assume the office of Master of the time immemorial lodges at a joint meeting of the three in June. It is a fitting tribute to these distinguished lodges without whose actions in 1717 we might not be celebrating this year.

'Because they predate the formation of Grand Lodge itself, these lodges have the status of being “time immemorial"'

Published in Features

Brethen of Valour

Special paving stones outside Freemasons’ Hall pay tribute to English Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I

A set of paving stones commemorating the 64 English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) during World War I was unveiled outside Freemasons’ Hall on 25 April.

The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the Armed Forces regardless of rank or status – and almost one in six of the 633 VC recipients during the First World War were Freemasons.

Of these, 64 were under UGLE and 43 were under other Grand Lodges in the British Empire. Freemasons’ Hall itself is a memorial to the 3,000-plus English Freemasons who gave their lives in World War I.

The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended the ceremony for the stones’ unveiling and blessing, together with Lord Dannatt, a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London; the Mayor of Camden; senior officers from the military services; a group of Chelsea Pensioners; and representatives from the VC and George Cross Association as well as some of the regiments in which the VC holders had served. Specially invited were the families of those who were being commemorated.

The event was open to the public, with Great Queen Street and Wild Street closed to traffic. The crowd included representatives from many of the service lodges as well as passers-by.

Music was provided by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the North London Military Wives Choir. Radio and television presenter Katie Derham narrated the first part of the ceremony, which opened with Chelsea Pensioner Ray Pearson reading an extract from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, followed by the President of the Board of General Purposes, Anthony Wilson, welcoming those attending.

Derham set the scene at the outbreak of war in 1914 with the aid of archive film showing how young men ‘flocked to the flag’ in the expectation that the war would be over by Christmas – and how the reality set in that it was not to be a short war but one that would affect every community in the country.

Simon Dean OBE paid tribute to his grandfather Donald John Dean, who, at the age of 21, was awarded the VC in 1918. Col Brian Lees LVO OBE, chairman of the Rifles, Light Infantry and KOYLI Regimental Association, and Lt Col Matt Baker, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, The Rifles, paid tribute to Oliver Watson, who was posthumously awarded a VC in 1918.

The horrors of the war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, a pupil at Harrow School. He read extracts from the diaries of Major Richard Willis, who had also been a pupil at Harrow, in which he described the carnage resulting from landing his men on W Beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. For his part in that action he was one of the famous ‘six VCs before breakfast’ of the Gallipoli landings.

The Grand Secretary, Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, gave an exhortation that was followed by the last post, a one-minute silence and reveille. The memorial stones were then unveiled and blessed by the Grand Chaplain, Canon Michael Wilson. The Grand Master and Lord Dannatt then inspected the stones, after which family members and other invited guests had an opportunity to view them before entering Freemasons’ Hall for a reception in the Grand Temple vestibule area.

You can watch highlights of the unveiling of the memorial to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War here

A special commemorative programme for the ceremony, including portraits and brief details of the 64 brethren of valour, can also be viewed here

Published in UGLE

Well appointed

Responsible for the fabric of Freemasons’  Hall, Grand Superintendent of Works  John Pagella encourages a businesslike  approach towards the management of  every masonic building

What’s your professional background?

I’m a chartered surveyor by training, working for the first five years of my professional life for what was then the Greater London Council. I spent two and a half years doing slum clearance in the East End of London, acquiring properties that were medically unfit for human habitation. I learnt a little bit about surveying but a huge amount about life and social conditions that simply don’t exist today.

I then wanted the challenge of working in private practice. So I joined a firm of chartered surveyors called Montagu Evans, becoming a partner and eventually the head of valuation and professional services before retiring in 2002. Retirement is a bit of a strange term, because I’m now doing as much as I ever did.

What does the title Grand Superintendent of Works mean?

It’s a masonic title – I’m the property adviser or the surveyor, in very simple terms. I’m responsible to the Board of General Purposes and to the Rulers of the Craft for maintaining the fabric of Freemasons’ Hall. When Grand Lodge was first established there was no Grand Superintendent of Works, but they quickly realised they needed a property professional. Sir John Soane was the first, and over the years we’ve had architects, engineers and surveyors filling the post.

In my role I also guide the changes that may be needed within Freemasons’ Hall to help it to function as a building that fulfils the needs of Freemasonry today. Equally important is our property portfolio in Great Queen Street, both as an asset within the investment portfolio of UGLE and also for the income that it produces. This income helps to cushion the organisation from the day-to-day costs of managing an ageing building.

How did you become a Freemason?

My father was a mason and it’s one of my regrets in life that he died before I became one. His – and my – mother lodge, Molesey Lodge, No. 2473, was the lodge for Covent Garden. So the owners of the fruit businesses, the market workers, the local bank manager and the local solicitor were all members. One of my earliest memories was the atmosphere at home when it was the lodge meeting day. He’d be dressed in his masonic clothing with morning suit, and off he went. My uncle, who by then was Secretary of the lodge, said, ‘Come on, I think you’ll enjoy this.’ Eventually, I gave up the unequal struggle and joined.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I met interesting people and no matter where I went, I felt welcome. I also got satisfaction out of the ritual as I’ve always been intrigued by analysing and understanding why we do what we do as masons. If you put some time and effort into understanding the ritual, it has an awful lot to tell you about life.

'Freemasonry is a craft but managing its buildings is a business’

What are the challenges facing masonic buildings?

One of my mantras is that Freemasonry is a craft but managing its buildings is a business. One of the reasons we have got into difficulties with some of our buildings is that masons have been visiting their lodges for many, many years. They feel comfortable, it’s all part of the tradition of that lodge and they’re reluctant to look objectively at what is happening.

I’m a director of Surbiton’s masonic hall, and a number of years ago, when lodge membership began falling, we realised we needed to complement the income that Freemasonry brought in with outside events. Some people think that’s straightforward, that all you do is put up a sign saying ‘we do weddings’ and it comes to you. That doesn’t tend to work. You’ve got to be professional about the way that you attract outside income.

We adapted the building so that there was a modern, elegant hospitality suite. We had wedding coordinators, we installed a professional kitchen, we created improved bar facilities – everything that a couple who wanted to get married would want.

The approach at Surbiton is only one example of the challenges in managing a building – one solution does not fit all. What we’re trying to do is encourage people to go to the right people and ask the right questions in order to make an informed commercial decision about their building.

How is UGLE helping at a local level?

We cannot do other than encourage common sense and good practice in the way in which lodges decide to use their land and buildings. It’s not our task to dictate. We want to encourage those who own and occupy masonic buildings to pause, sit back and ask themselves whether their buildings are not only fit for purpose today but will continue to be so in 10 or 20 years’ time.

While Freemasonry is about respecting tradition, we also need to be aware that the world is changing. Circumstances are forcing us to think about what we are doing with our buildings. We can either think about this in sufficient time to make an orderly and sensible decision. Or, we can wait until, all of a sudden, circumstances overwhelm us. That is when the problems arise, when people are forced to take critical decisions too quickly.

At the moment I don’t have a lot of contact with the Provincial Superintendents of Works. One of our objectives at UGLE is to try to create some form of forum for discussion
and the exchange of ideas. We can all benefit from the experience we have in different areas.

Is it hard for you to look at any building aesthetically?

It’s a standing joke in my family. Whenever we go into a house, my wife looks at the interior design, and I point out there’s a bit of damp and some shared rights of access that I feel uncomfortable about! I do look at everything through the eyes of somebody whose whole life has been concerned with buildings.

Some buildings are beautiful. Some are appallingly ugly. Since 1948, every building in this country has been through a formal approval process. If you see a terrible building in the wrong place, ask yourself how it came about, because somebody not only sat down to design it, someone else approved it too. Bad architecture should be the exception yet there’s so much of it about.

Do you enjoy your work?

I think I have one of the finest jobs in Freemasonry because I’m able to use my experience to achieve something tangible. By 2020, I hope we will have completed the work needed on our property investment portfolio, leaving us to concentrate on exercising sound management control. If I achieve a change of attitude towards the way we manage masonic buildings generally, I think I will have helped to achieve something worthwhile.

Published in UGLE

Appetite for life

Whether forming a martial arts school or releasing a cookbook, Kwoklyn Wan has always believed in sharing. Francesca Hool finds out why becoming a Freemason was the natural progression

Speaking with a soft Leicester twang, Kwoklyn Wan describes himself as ‘British-born Chinese’. A devoted father, martial arts expert, self-trained Asian cooking sensation and newly initiated Freemason, Kwoklyn has an infectious enthusiasm and is proud of his heritage.

Kwoklyn’s father moved to the UK from the little village of Sha Tau Kok, on the border between Hong Kong and mainland China, in 1962. ‘With the Chinese, everything revolves around food. It’s our culture. Birthday party, wedding or funeral, we sit together around the table and eat. My grandfather opened the first Chinese restaurant in Leicester and my dad followed suit with a Cantonese restaurant.’

By the age of four, Kwoklyn was clad in a white shirt and black bow tie, working front of house. ‘I was born for it,’ he says. Around the same time, his father enrolled him at a martial arts school, planting the seed for another of his lifelong passions. ‘Being half Chinese and a big guy, I got my fair share of name calling at school. Martial arts helped me through it. I had a laugh rather than take offence.’

In his 20s, Kwoklyn used savings earned working as a chef and founded a martial arts school in the heart of the Leicester community. He describes the early years as ‘hit and miss’, but his determination saw him through as he accumulated awards and accolades for his teaching. 

Whether preparing Hakka-style slow-cooked meats or practising Filipino martial arts, Kwoklyn has an aptitude for sharing his skills. ‘The first time [you teach] you get the nerves, you shake, and often you start teaching one way and end up somewhere else, but that’s the beauty of it.’ For Kwoklyn, martial arts and the art of Chinese cooking demand the same values. ‘Learning to punch or kick takes years of study – you need patience and time to become a master. Cooking is no different.’

MIXING THINGS UP

When asked what motivated him to join the ranks of the Freemasons, Kwoklyn remarks truthfully: ‘I didn’t know a lot [about it], but I had friends who were members and despite not giving much away, they urged me to join. I did my own investigation, gleaning insight from masons, and applied online. There’s a lot of respect involved with Chinese culture and the martial arts that I grew up with. You learn from a young age to respect your elders; you treat people how you want to be treated. And with the Freemasons I felt that immediately.’

Reflecting on his initiation, Kwoklyn enjoyed the fact that all of his peers had already been through exactly the same process. ‘For that one night you are made to feel like the most important person in the world. There’s no hierarchy – everybody you meet wants you to succeed. That positivity is something special. You are surrounded by people who are your brothers. You get together, go through certain customs and traditions, look at charities and how you can help out, and then have a big meal.’

Since joining in April 2016, Kwoklyn says his mindset has already changed. ‘I’ve gained so much and I’ve barely scratched the surface. New aspects of Freemasonry are constantly revealing themselves. It feels like a whole new chapter of learning. Recently, I’ve put forward another initiate, because I am so passionate about how joining the masons has made me feel.’

Fellow Freemason and close friend George Elliot is Director of Ceremonies at Grey Friars Lodge. He offers guidance and support, stressing that masons can ring him at any time. ‘The beauty of the lodge is that we’ve got a wonderful mixture of people – young, old, all walks of life,’ he says.

'There’s a lot of respect involved with Chinese culture and the martial arts that I grew up with. You learn from a young age to respect your elders; you treat people how you want to be treated. And with the Freemasons I felt that immediately’ Kwoklyn Wan

THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS

Along with other senior members of the lodge, George likes to meet potential candidates in person. ‘We tread carefully, making sure each person is the right fit and that, ultimately, they will enjoy it. When I first spoke to Kwoklyn it was surreal, I’d never met anybody so keen at such an early stage of Freemasonry. It’s refreshing, there was no stopping him.’ 

It seems Kwoklyn’s bubbling personality is somewhat infectious. ‘He passes that persona on to people, it makes them see Freemasonry from his point of view,’ says George, adding that while the initiation process can be daunting, ‘Kwoklyn nailed it. He did his homework and everybody raised their game for him.’

With Grey Friars Lodge close to home, it’s a perfect fit for Kwoklyn, who is keen to give back to the community that raised him. He recently ran a cooking class at Leicester’s Dorothy Goodman School, which caters for pupils with a range of learning difficulties and aims to give them the skills to be self-sufficient. ‘I teach the same way I would my own daughters, by trying to give them a skill set. To pass something on. If I’m able to teach them how to cook rice or how to use a gas ring safely, they can take those things away with them forever.’

With his cooking career in full flow and a cookbook due for release, there’s no stopping Kwoklyn. ‘I wanted to share recipes that our ancestors and parents ate, and what we ate as children. I’m a practical learner and I love to participate, so what better way to bring the cookbook to life than by having pop-up-style cooking classes all over Leicestershire?’

Published in Features
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